The bluster about Ontario’s ‘community’ wind farm
February 6, 2017
Last week, the wind power communications machinery was touting the virtues of the Gunn’s Hill wind power project which they claim is Ontario’s first real “community” wind power project, half-owned by the local community.
The project’s success was owed to its partners, the Oxford Community Energy Cooperative, a (non-local) First Nation, and Bullfrog Power as well as the Germany-based power developer, Prowind.
The story was repeated on CBC’s Ontario Morning.
Community-based? Not so fast.
Retired engineer William Palmer wrote to correct the CBC on their assumptions, with this letter.
I listened with interest this morning as Wei Chen spoke with Miranda Fuller, Communications Director of the Gunn’s Hill Wind Project about this “community project” of the Oxford Community Energy Cooperative.
– it is a project with 49% community ownership
– 33% of the members of the cooperative live in Oxford County
We heard also learned of the other owners, ProWind Canada, and Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation.
Let’s look a little deeper at this community involvement.
The Cooperative Web Site says, “The present membership consists of 160 individuals and organizations that live in the project vicinity, Oxford County and all of Southern Ontario,” to whom $9 million in shares and debentures were sold. Yet, to be a member of the cooperative the minimum share is $100, so not every member needs to be a major investor. It is interesting to read who some of the other members of the cooperative are – including the project developers. Elsewhere the website says there are 186 members.
So that means there are about 33% of 186 = 62 members of the cooperative that live in Oxford County … which Wikipedia tells us had some 105,719 residents in 2011, so we can see that 0.06% of the county population are supporters. It’s not exactly a wide support base in the county.
You might be interested in knowing that at the Environmental Review Tribunal the Township of Norwich Councillor for the impacted ward, Mr. Wayne Buchanan spoke of the Township of Norwich’s past and ongoing objections to the Project. He presented three letters to the Tribunal, one from the Township to Premier McGuinty asking for a moratorium on wind turbine developments, one to the Approval Holder (developer) asking for a delay in the development until noise and health studies are available, and one to Premier Wynne noting that the Township of Norwich was an unwilling host of industrial wind turbines.
You might also be interested in knowing that the office of the participating Six Nations of the Grand River Development Agency is located over 50 km from the wind turbines. It is a financial investment, but not exactly in their neighbourhood. (A similar case occurred in the community of Dutton Dunwich, where the participation of First Nations groups included First Nations located near the Manitoba Border or James Bay, but not the local First Nation.) “Points” are received by the Ontario Renewable Energy Approvals process for “community involvement, or for First Nations involvement, even if they are not from the impacted community.
Now, why would folks invest in such a development? Well, the 10 turbines of Gunn’s Hill will be paid some (10 x $135 a MWh x 1.8 MW x 8760 hours a year x 24% capacity factor) = $5,108,832 a year for the estimated 37,843 MWh they will produce – whether the electricity they produce is needed or not (as wind developers can be paid to curtail operation or not produce when the electricity is not needed). Interestingly, had the power been produced instead by Bruce Power, the payment would have been less than half as much. That $5 million a year for a 20 year contract, is pretty good return for a project with a total investment of perhaps $40 million. Few other (government supported) investments will return some 12.5% a year on a guaranteed basis for 20 years. Sadly, the power consumers of Ontario, including those who cannot afford to pay their electricity bills, are the payees of that investment return.
Wei Chen started to ask a question that deserved an answer … about how people will think when their electricity bills arrive. Ontario simply cannot keep paying twice as much for a product that is delivered best at times when it is not needed … and then pay Michigan or New York State to take the excess off our hands (or at the very least give them the electricity for free to power their industries) without adversely impacting power rates in Ontario. It is no wonder that Ontario rates are climbing so rapidly.
I thought that Wei Chen or other Ontario Morning staff might be interested in scanning what concerns I would have presented to the Environmental Review Tribunal where I was accepted as an expert witness, had they chosen to accept all my testimony. (They did not, and what was presented was only a fraction of what was initially prepared for them). A copy of my presentation as initially offered to the Environmental Review Tribunal is attached, and signed as a Professional Engineer. I note that many others in the community also made presentations – again with only partial acceptance by the Environmental Review Tribunal.
I have blind copied a few of the local participants and interested bodies who may not have heard your interview this morning and who may wish to contact you to confirm if what you were told was accurate that “once the turbines are in operation the project is accepted” or as Miranda Fuller noted, people see the turbines as “majestic.”